Friday Newsletter: On Head Injuries, CTE and Being Honest About What You're Going Through
Plus I answer your Mailbag questions
I want to begin today’s Friday Newsletter with a sound clip. The Substack platform just allowed us to be able to start embedding audio clips, and it seemed like the right time to do it if you haven’t heard the section of my interview this week with Brian Dunseth about his response as a former player (who has had multiple concussions) to the recent CTE stories about the late Scott Vermillion and Bruce Murray.
There’s something about audio that can convey emotion even more than the written word, and this is one of those examples. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Brian for being honest and vulnerable in this conversation—and for caring so deeply about his former teammates and colleagues in the soccer world.
Take a listen:
Hearing Brian mention how much he has discussed head injuries with Taylor Twellman is also a reminder of the remarkable work that Taylor has done over the years with ThinkTaylor.org and making sure that head injuries remain top of mind for those of us who follow the sport.
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Nearly 12 years have passed since I wrote a piece for Sports Illustrated about Twellman’s story and his cause—and how concussions had affected the careers of soccer players like Alecko Eskandarian, Lori Chalupny, Bryan Namoff and others.
(The SI.com CMS has changed so many times since then that the link no longer has the start to my story, which is this: When Taylor Twellman won Major League Soccer’s MVP award in 2005, he threw his head at balls in the penalty box with the force of a bird smacking into a window. That’s how the U.S. and New England Revolution forward scored 101 goals in eight MLS seasons—and how his playing career took an irretrievable turn on August 30, 2008.)
There are still so many unknowns when it comes to head injuries in sports, including in soccer. But I’m glad that people like Brian are willing to be vulnerable in public about their worries and their concerns, about themselves and others.
And truth be told, I should follow that myself more often. I’m not dealing with head injuries or post-concussion syndromes like Brian and Taylor and so many other soccer players. But I could be more open about when I’m going through some challenges, too.
After two years of avoiding Covid, I tested positive recently and just spent 10 days isolating in a hotel. Even though I’m twice-vaccinated and boosted, it hit me with more severity than I would have expected, and I was really struggling for a few days with fevers and chills overnight. I didn’t say anything publicly because I thought it would embarrass my wife (who’s an infectious-disease doctor and runs a tight ship Covid-wise), but the truth is I’m only now starting to feel like myself again.
So if you’re wondering why I haven’t published that big story from my trip to Qatar here that I’ve been promising, that’s the reason. It’ll happen in August after I get back from my trip to cover the last week of Euro 2022, and I think it will be worth the wait. I’m harder on me than anyone else is (probably a little too hard), and I take pride in being someone who can produce a lot of content that also happens to be of high quality. But I’ve been fighting it health-wise over the past couple weeks. And I appreciate Brian for reminding me that it’s OK to be up-front about stuff like that.
I’m still growing this writing site, and I want it to be something that every subscriber feels is worth their money. Thanks again for everything you have done to support it and recommend it to others!
OPENING THE MAILBAG
Do you think that the success/failure of Jesse Marsch at Leeds will drive the chances of future American coaches getting opportunities at Big 5 European clubs?
I don’t think it should, but it might—especially for anyone who might be seen to be on the “Marsch coaching tree.” On the one hand, Bob Bradley not lasting long at Swansea didn’t prevent Leeds from hiring Marsch. But there just hasn’t been a large sample size of American coaches at European clubs, and so I do think there’s a chance Marsch’s performance could be used by some decision-makers on other U.S. coaches. That said, I think someone like Jim Curtin deserves a look from a European club because of what he has done at the Philadelphia Union, not because he’s on the “Marsch coaching tree.”
How to make sense out of Bayern Munich trouncing D.C. United 6-2 and the Loons beating Everton 4-0? Seems these friendly data points are too fickle to draw any meaningful comparisons between MLS and top-flight European football.
There’s zero usefulness in paying attention to any results, positive or negative, for MLS teams against European clubs in preseason games. That’s why I was shaking my head so much at Phil Neville saying Inter Miami’s friendly against Barcelona was the biggest game in club history. What?
Thoughts on MN Aurora FC inaugural season? Heading into the final Saturday averaging 6,200 at the 2 playoff games as well as undefeated.
I could tell Aurora would be a special team from the moment I interviewed co-founder Andrea Yoch last year. And how this team has performed on and off the field this season has been incredible. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder if the NWSL should be expanding to Minnesota ahead of several other possibilities.
Are any of the women's CONCACAF teams showing any signs of rising to level of the U.S. or Canada?
Put simply: No. I understand all the reasons. But I have to say I thought Mexico would be a lot farther along than what we saw during the team’s recent disastrous performance as the host team in the CONCACAF tournament. The growth of Liga MX Femenil, the greater resources being put into the national team, the hiring of Mónica Vergara: All of those things portended qualifying for World Cup 2023. Mexico’s best performance actually came against the U.S., which only made you wonder where the heck that was in the games against Jamaica and Haiti.
There is a major difference between end of season and preseason for traveling Premier League teams. End of season is party-time.
True. But don’t tell that to Everton’s Frank Lampard.
Have a good weekend!
Does your infectious disease partner think you contracted the B.5 variant? It is the Covid version most rampant now, and seems impervious to the vaccines and boosters. We all enjoy your work and are happy to pay for the content you provide. Your interview ( radio insert) was great. The post career “ fate” of many players is unknown to most. We see many former stars in tv roles and assume that’s what everyone does. Best regards
Thanks for the honesty, Grant. Don’t wear yourself out. And thanks for the (unfortunate) reminder that COVID is still out there. Be as safe as you can, folks! I know sooner or later we’re all going to get it, if we haven’t already. And we may get it again. In the meantime, get your shots!